By: Todd Hockenberry – Top Line Results
The key to growing your manufacturing business boils down to helping the right people at the right time. You also need to be able to communicate a message that resonates with a buyer and moves them to action. To get that message heard you need to be where your prospects are when they are looking for help. Today’s manufacturing buyers are using online tools to research potential solutions and compare different suppliers. That does not mean traditional approaches to meeting prospects don’t work but it does mean that you need to adjust your marketing and sales appropriately.
Seven Ways to Grow Your Manufacturing Business Now:
1. Optimize Your Site for “Long Tail” Manufacturing Keywords
Before you can start optimizing for keywords, you need to get cracking on your keyword research and focus on long tail rather than high level keywords. High level keywords are tempting to focus on because they are often intuitive. If you manufacture laser marking systems, then “laser” is likely to be one of the first keywords you think of. There are a couple of problems with high level keywords, however. First, high level keywords tend to have a lot of competition. If you thought of “laser”, so did all of your competitors. This means it’s going to be much harder to rank higher for these types of keywords. Second, high level keywords don’t offer a lot of differentiation in searches. “Laser” is a very broad term and covers a huge range of specific types, purposes, industries, sizes, etc. Which leads us to the third problem; high level keywords are lousy converters. Someone searching for “lasers” is probably not ready to make a purchase. On the other hand, someone searching for an “air cooled 20 watt fiber laser” is much more likely to be ready to make a purchase. Understanding the long tail keywords your ideal prospects use to search forces you to think like them. This is the key to long term success growing a manufacturing business. Understand the needs of a narrow target audience and deliver the help and results they need. So when you are looking to grow your manufacturing business you need to find the long tail keywords that your ideal leads are searching for. Once you’ve got your keywords, you then need to optimize for them. Which leads us into the second step:
2. Create New Content Targeting Ideal Prospects
Long tail keywords can help you create new content that is highly focused and relevant to your ideal prospects. Long tail keywords let you know the specific areas of your business that your prospects are interested in, so think of them as writing guides. If one of your long tail keywords is “air cooled 20 watt fiber laser” brainstorm all of the things you can think of having to do with air cooled 20 watt fiber lasers. You could create compare and contrast articles, buying guide white papers, or best practice blog posts. Whatever content you create, however, is going to help you rank for a long tail keyword that your prospects are looking for. The key to growing your manufacturing business is finding the best way to be in front of the people who need your product or service. Long tail keywords are a great way to do that because they let you know what your prospects are searching for, and give you the ability to create content that will allow you to rank for it. Long tail keywords put your website in front of prospects. You can also use this content in the sales process to show value and expertise. Great customer focused content shows your prospects that you know your stuff and are willing to share that expertise to help them. Studies show that the first company that is helpful wins the business at a very high rate. Content creation using a blog is a great way to be that company that is helpful first.
3. Communicate With Customers
Seems like something that is pretty obvious. But I am often surprised by clients who do not have a plan or schedule for regularly communicating with existing customers. Often these companies leave it to the sales team to maintain those contacts. But the same sales team is under constant pressure to produce more new sales so they naturally focus on the hot prospects in front of them.
Jeffrey Gitomer says, “The single most valuable asset that you or your company will have is your email list”. Is your list current? Do you regularly communicate updates to your customers? Email lists decay by 5-15% a year so this is an ongoing never ending process. You should also be growing your contact list within your customers. Expand your connections to any department that is relevant to your relationship. You cannot rely on one contact at your customers. They leave. If your list is incomplete then make it a priority to build it back up:
- Gather all contacts you have from the sales team, marketing, service, accounting, or anyone else that talks to your customers
- Use a CRM tool to manage those contacts
- If you have gaps in contacts fill them by hiring an intern or assigning someone that specific responsibility
- Send regular updates about new features, new products, new uses for their products, maintenance tips – make sure it is helpful information and not marketing fluff
- Solicit honest feedback about how you are doing, what they like about working with your team, what they would like to see you add to your offerings, what they like about competitors
- Do not take your customers for granted. Talk to your customers regularly. It is too easy for them to find a competitor not to.
4. While You Are Talking To Them Get Referrals
If they are happy with you and your company ask them why. Then ask who else they know that has the same problems and might benefit from the same value you deliver. If the customer is happy with you then most often they will be happy to make a referral. This process is so natural and simple yet few companies I start working with actually prioritize getting referrals and have a habit of asking for them. This is where great content helps. Send them a case study or article you wrote about solving a problem and ask the referrer to send that to the person they are referring to you. Better yet, have emails already built that you can send and the referrer can copy to send. Make is very easy for them to refer you.
5. Make Sure Your Sales Team is Using the Best Prospecting Tools
LinkedIn Navigator is a must for today’s salesperson. If your sales team is not using LinkedIn then they are missing a great opportunity to engage with other manufacturing people. This is an easy tool to use and not very expensive in relation to the value it provides. There are tons of free resources that give many ideas for using LinkedIn. Salespeople should be learning and using this tool on their own. A great way to connect with prospects is to use the customer focused content you have, like case studies, as a way to start a conversation. Salespeople need to learn how to write great value based emails with the key being a great subject line that moves the recipient to open it. Again, there are tons of free resources available to educate salespeople about crafting great subject lines and writing great emails. These are basic prospecting skills and all salespeople should be working on them to improve their success prospecting.
6. Get Out of the Office and Meet Them Face-to-Face
Do not assume that because your customers are hard to reach by email and phone that they won’t see value in meeting with you in person. Make the time to see them at their facility, at trade shows, industry events, or wherever they are going. Hold an event for all of your customers at your place and get them talking to one another and create opportunities for them to learn from other companies.
Build an ecosystem of partners, suppliers, experts, and peers for your customers that they want to participate in. Make it valuable for them to know you. Be different and do not rely on digital tools to maintain your relationship. Invest the time to bring them value face-to-face and build a relationship that is hard to counter by a competitor.
7. Shop Yourself to Understand the Customer Experience you Deliver
You need to know how easy it is to buy from you. Does a person answer your main phone line or a machine? Does your site have lots of resources buyers need before and after the sale? What does your quoting process look like? Is it easy to work through or a mess of cut-and-paste documents cobbled together? Are set up instructions easy to follow? Are the videos showing how to start, run, and maintain your products? Is your accounting system simple and easy for them to pay you? Do they have options for payment type?
Evaluate your process of delivering your solution and make sure there are no gaps in the quality and level of service you provide. Each step and touch point with the customer is an opportunity to improve or degrade your relationship. Make sure they are all optimized for the things your prospects and customers value.
Mix the old with the new and deliver your expertise to the people that need and you will Grow Your Manufacturing Business.
About the Author:
Todd Hockenberry founded and runs Top Line Results, a consulting firm specializing in helping manufacturing, industrial, and B2B companies change and grow using Inbound Industrial Marketing and best practice strategies for each company’s particular situation and goals.